Category Archives: News

We will now ponder

We will ponder the meaning of this fear of extreme violence. “If I am to be in relationship to anything, it must be as a sacrificial lamb to it,” I told my analyst, interpreting a dream.

Axé.

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Algo está muriendo

Something is dying. What is getting born?

Did something die long ago, and did I simply not recognize it?

Was the thing that died real? I think it was the realest thing that ever happened to me, but was it real? Some say not.

There is something I don’t want to die and don’t want to lose connection with. It may not be my choice and as I say, this may have already happened, I may be the last to know.

I do not want the truth to be as empty as it seems now — and I don’t think it is, actually. I also don’t want it to be past.

Something a fortuneteller said to me, though, was: “Stop knocking on doors and stop slumming. Raise your sights to where ‘things can be served on trays’.”

What do I gain by allowing myself to be overburdened with service to others? Evasion of self, or of my own value, surely.

Axé.

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Benjamin Matveevich

That is the first name and patronymic of my great-great grandfather, the immigrant. His dissertation director was Alexander von Humboldt.

Axé.

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Postman on the intellectual vacuum in which a Trump arises

But television is a speed-of-light medium, a present-centered medium. Its grammar, so to say, permits no access to the past. Everything presented in moving pictures is experienced as happening “now,” which is why we must be told in language that a videotape we are seeing was made months before. Moreover, like its forefather, the telegraph, television needs to move fragments of information, not to collect and organize them. Carlyle was more prophetic than he could imagine: The literal gray haze that is the background void on all television screens is an apt metaphor of the notion of history the medium puts forward. In the Age of Show Business and image politics, political discourse is emptied not only of ideological content but of historical content, as well. Czeslaw Milosz, winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize for Literature, remarked in his acceptance speech in Stockholm that our age is characterized by a “refusal to remember”; he cited, among other things, the shattering fact that there are now more than one hundred books in print that deny that the Holocaust ever took place. The historian Carl Schorske has, in my opinion, circled closer to the truth by noting that the modern mind has grown indifferent to history because history has become useless to it; in other words, it is not obstinacy or ignorance but a sense of irrelevance that leads to the diminution of history. Television’s Bill Moyers inches still closer when he says, “I worry that my own business . . . helps to make this an anxious age of agitated amnesiacs. . . . We Americans seem to know everything about the last twenty-four hours but very little of the last sixty centuries or the last sixty years.” Terence Moran, I believe, lands on the target in saying that with media whose structure is biased toward furnishing images and fragments, we are deprived of access to an historical perspective. In the absence of continuity and context, he says, “bits of information cannot be integrated into an intelligent and consistent whole.” We do not refuse to remember; neither do we find it exactly useless to remember. Rather, we are being rendered unfit to remember. For if remembering is to be something more than nostalgia, it requires a contextual basis—a theory, a vision, a metaphor— something within which facts can be organized and patterns discerned. The politics of image and instantaneous news provides no such context, is, in fact, hampered by attempts to provide any. A mirror records only what you are wearing today. It is silent about yesterday. With television, we vault ourselves into a continuous, incoherent present. “History,” Henry Ford said, “is bunk.” Henry Ford was a typographic optimist. “History,” the Electric Plug replies, “doesn’t exist.”

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I will write this

I have been thinking hard about what to do with all my prison material and knowledge and realized, I am not really in a position to increase activism in a truly meaningful way, and/but I should write a series of Atlantic-type (perhaps) articles on what I know. I never feel I know a great deal but it has been pointed out to me more than once how much I do know, and someone did say recently I should write it down — although that suggestion is not how I came to this conclusion tonight.

All my novels freeze in their tracks as life changes, but this would be a piece of creative or journalistic writing I could sustain. I was born to write. This story begins, like all stories, with a chance encounter. “Debo a la conjunción de un espejo y de una enciclopedia el descubrimiento de Uqbar. El espejo inquietaba el fondo de un corredor en una quinta de la calle Gaona, en Ramos Mejía; la enciclopedia falazmente se llama. . . .”

Axé.

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No es fácil

I want to say that for 25 years I have been visiting a death row prisoner in Louisiana. This started as an offshoot of some activism — it was never my intention to become sole emotional support for a condemned man — but it has happened.

It has been pointed out to me that my position in this is unusual in a number of ways I am at this moment too tired to write out. One of the points I raised, in the call I made on the matter, was that when all of this began there was a community of support for persons in similar positions and that community has since evaporated. One of the ways in which my position is new is that, in the current climate this person, who is now 60 and has been on death row as long as I have been a professor, is more likely to die on death row than to be executed.

Being on death row is not the same as being in a punishment cell but it does mean 23 hour cell restriction. This is not good for the mental health of anyone, and specially not over decades.

If I had someone in town to talk to about this relationship, this activity, this experience, it would be easier. By “someone” I mean someone also doing what I am doing. There is so much to say about all of this.

Axé.

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Des mots, ou les mots et les idées

I am reading translation theory for class and catching my breath. These were my original research questions, when I was a child. The reasons I studied the things I did. Not the relationship between words and things, but words and thoughts, and the way in which language produces or conditions perception.

Axé.

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